Earlier this year, the DMC moderated two “What’s Next, Alabama?” forums with high schoolers from Randolph and Coffee counties.

“What’s Next, Alabama?” is a 2017-19 forum series that engages Alabamians in deliberative conversations on community, economic, and workforce development. Using three questions (“Where are we now?” “Where do we want to go?” and “How do we get there?”), participants identify local assets and concerns in their communities, and weigh possible action ideas against trade-offs. The goal is working better together towards community-oriented solutions.

In January, the 2016-17 Randolph County Youth Development Initiative (RCYDI) cohort visited Montevallo. These high schoolers participated in an American Village field trip and then gathered for a “What’s Next, Alabama?” youth forum. Founded by former JOIP Living Democracy intern Marian Royston, the program brings students together to develop technical and soft skills through work placements, mentoring, field trips, and workshops.


 RCYDI creates opportunities for young people to not only stay, but to thrive in their hometowns.


Later in February, Mathews Center staff moderated a forum with the Coffee County Youth Leadership Program. Similar to the Randolph County initiative, this program connects high school juniors with businesses, community resources, and local government.

During both forums, students discussed active citizenship and explored what’s working well in their communities and what they believe needs improvement. Then, as the discussions grew, students moved from identifying physical assets and challenges to reflecting on identity. Finally, towards the end of each conversation, participants identified project ideas based on the ideas and trade-offs which had emerged.

We consider it a privilege to moderate “What’s Next, Alabama?” forums with young Alabamians. Their voices across our state represent our future.  Through these forums, young people under 18 can consider the power for change they have – not just in adulthood, but right now. 

Written by Laura Vickery, Civic Fellow


Interested in engaging youth in your community? Check out the DMC Civic Scorecard